Tiny Tina's Wonderlands Review
Magic, Dragons, and A Gazillion Guns
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands takes the concept behind Borderlands 2’s excellent Assault on Dragon Keep DLC and turns it into a fully-fledged spin-off. It’s a game that largely sticks to the same formula as Gearbox’s flagship series while bringing a number of tweaks in an attempt to carve out a personality of its own. There’s lots of looting and shooting to do, but it also feels a little too much like Borderlands 3 only with a different coat of paint.
Its action is framed as a session of Dungeons and Dragons-inspired tabletop RPG Bunkers and Badasses, with Tiny Tina herself stepping into the role of a bunker (or dungeon) master. Frette and Valentine join her as two new characters whose banter keeps things lively throughout the entire game, even if they do sometimes have a tendency to yap on for too long. The fourth seat at the table is yours, an unnamed newbie stepping into the grandiose-sounding role of Fatemaker.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ first notable change comes in the shape of its fairly in-depth character creator. As opposed to Borderlands’ character-locked classes, you now start with a clean slate, picking your avatar’s background, looks, voice, and class. It’s a welcome departure that adds quite a few customization options, including the ability to choose the pitch of your hero’s voice and even send sliders into overdrive to create somewhat hideous monstrosities.
The six available classes tap into different fantasy RPG archetypes, from the frost-infused Brr-zerker, who leans more into melee combat, to the nature-attuned Spore Warden, whose toxic mushroom companion complements their ability to fire arcane arrows from afar, and beyond. I started playing as the Graveborn, a high-risk, high-reward spellcaster whose proficiency with all manners of guns is complemented by a penchant for dark magic, stealing the enemy’s life force, and an almost friendly floating skull buddy.
Wonderlands is at its best when Tina really leans into the role of bunker master, exercising her power in such a way that she doesn’t just trigger humorous exchanges but also shifts the landscape right in front of you. The clear skies above an idyllic city turn red as undead armies instantly begin sieging it at a moment’s notice.
The tall trees of the Weeping Dankness die, instantly being replaced with mushrooms when Valentine complains about the location not being dank enough. In moments like these, the game makes you feel like you are actually part of a world dreamt up by Tina, who also controls every aspect of it.
Frette questioning why there’s a firepit in an underwater cave prompts Tina to throw a surprise ambush your way, and it’s really great to see her break character or scramble to find an outrageous explanation she clearly hasn’t prepared beforehand. Especially after Borderlands 3’s limp writing and antagonists, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is a step in the right direction, even if it did lose a bit of edge. Its main baddie, however, feels largely absent never quite establishing himself as a credible threat.
Although this is a relatively shorter game, its world still features plenty of open, explorable locations that offer a combination of main quests and side adventures. They’re also no longer all connected to each other, being instead linked by an overworld that you traverse as an animated miniature, fitting the whole tabletop theme quite well. Its different biomes house NPCs from which you can pick up additional side quests, as well as collectible items that can net you permanent bonuses. They’re also home to random encounters and optional dungeons which grow a little repetitive a little too soon.
While you can opt-out of most random encounters – usually spawned when you navigate portions of the overworld covered in thick grass – by swiftly meleeing the enemy miniatures as they approach you, dungeons are a must if you plan on completing side quests. They’re all structured similarly, throwing you into a small arena and tasking you with killing enough enemies to fill a bar. Once you do so, you can reap your rewards – whether that be a quest item or loot – after which a portal sends you either back to the overworld or to the next encounter.
This is Wonderlands at its weakest, even if the arena layouts do usually come with a certain degree of verticality. On normal difficulty, the number of enemies you fight is fairly low and the dynamic of the fights also doesn’t change in any significant way from the game’s main levels. They end up feeling like pointless detours, with the exception of the rare situations when they do yield a better gun or item. This makes them feel like chores, which is an issue since the endgame Chaos Chamber mode is also based on their structure.
It operates in a similar fashion, stringing together multiple short encounters. To its credit, it does introduce an exclusive currency, which you can spend on buff shrines, making encounters more difficult, as well as choosing your preferred type of reward at the end. It also has rogue-lite-style modifiers that can add new challenges to each run. As you race to the final room, you’ll face enemies and bosses that you’ve already encountered during the main story.
The Chaos Chamber does reward you with those coveted legendary items, but never exactly feels all that new. Making enemies immune to a certain damage type or having them spawn puddles on the floor when you deplete their armor or shields, isn’t enough to make you ignore the fact that you’re mainly fighting in the same arenas you’ve already seen more than enough times. After a couple of runs, it’s hard to justify spending too much time in it, at least during a single session.
The larger levels follow in the footsteps of their counterparts from the main series. There’s usually quite a bit of ground to cover and range from pirate-infested beaches, to medieval castles, and bone-ridden necropolises. The Wonderlands are also full of enemies like dragons, goblins, and skeletons. Some – like the cyclops who get enraged if you focus on its eye – will be familiar, others less so. At the same time, its areas should have leaned more into its fantasy aspects. Several just feel like places that could have been in Borderlands, only with fantasy-inspired enemies trying to kill you.
The guns offer the same over-the-top, explosive action Borderlands is known for, but also feel familiar despite some cool visual changes to effects. Certain pistols become crossbows; one sniper rifle fires nine spikes in an inverted C shape, acting as an impromptu shotgun; I also found a shotgun that behaved more like a mid-range rifle, firing dragon-shaped projectiles in a straight line.
The thematic impact of these changes is bigger than the mechanical one but does help prop up the fantasy setting. The new names for some of the manufacturers don’t really hide the fact that you’re still wielding a Jakobs or a Tediore from the main series. Other visual touches, like your character reloading shotguns by sprinkling magic dust into their ammo compartment, are neat, but the weapons almost felt a bit out of place when fighting goblins and skeletons. Thankfully, the combat system as a whole, isn’t entirely copy-pasted and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands does a number of interesting things.
There’s a higher variety of melee weapons, which range from the swift khopesh to slower greatswords and massive maces. They’re also fleshed out with stats and effects, becoming a more effective part of your arsenal.
A number of awesome cooldown-based spells replace grenades, coming in multiple varieties, from chargeable projectiles to channeled casts of multiple fireballs, or a floating skull that expresses frustration at having to do your bidding before dealing massive damage to enemies.
You can cast quite a few while firing your weapon, and wielding a roaring assault rifle that launches multiple bouncing sawblades in one hand while the other conjures up homing fireballs definitely feeds into the feeling of badassery that Borderlands seeks to evoke, doing it as well, if not better, than the main game. It’s a pity that the UI hasn’t received much love, making identifying better items and switching your equipped gear a tad cumbersome.
I’ll also never get tired of using my Graveborn’s action skill which sends out a massive blast around him, at the cost of his health, dealing dark magic damage and leeching health back. Enemies simply melt, while the rest of the build grants him additional health, buffs companion damage, and spawns hydras from the corpses of slain foes.
During the story, you also unlock the ability to multiclass, letting you tap into the skill tree and abilities of any other one class. This lets you expand the list of potential builds and you can even respec – eventually down to the secondary class itself – offering quite a bit of flexibility. Picking the Spore Warden’s skill tree, I received a mushroom companion, whose distinctly modeled butt-cheeks, poisonous farts, and ability to revive made my Graveborn an even more efficient killing machine.
On an i7-8700K, 16 GB RAM, Nvidia RTX 3080@1080p, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands ran flawlessly on the highest settings and with the resolution scale set to 125%. The only stutters I encountered were tied to the Shift service constantly going online and offline during launch week, spamming the screen with notifications.
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands accessibility options cover visuals, allowing you to select the colors of friendly, neutral, and hostile reticles, controls – including aim assist options – as well as the ability to toggle between holding or pressing buttons to sprint and crouch. In addition, you can also choose subtitle size, and opacity alongside the amount of camera shake and head-bob.
TINY TINA'S WONDERLANDS VERDICT
Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands plays it safe, never leaning enough into its fantasy elements or bringing any significant changes to the Borderlands formula, but offering more of the fun looting and shooting the main series is known for. It boasts better writing and humor than Borderlands 3 while throwing in interesting spells and class powers that spice up its otherwise familiar combat system.
Repetitive dungeons and a tedious endgame drag it down a bit, but if you’re looking to shoot dragons instead of bandits and sift through an endless stream of guns and items in search of the one that works slightly better with your build, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands has got you covered.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Using my Graveborn’s action skill to send forth a wave of dark energy that instantly melted enemies around me.
Good vs Bad
- More Borderlands-style looting and shooting (if you haven’t had enough)
- Neat tweaks to the formula give Wonderlands a slightly distinct feel
- Multiple character customization options
- Better writing and humor than Borderlands 3
- More Borderlands-style looting and shooting (if you wanted something vastly different)
- Plays it a little too safe and doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from Borderlands
- Repetitive dungeons and random encounters
- UI that could really use a touch-up and some streamlining